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Saturday 12 December 2020

Plane Sailing

Before pandemic measures kicked in I was set to take a work-related trip to New Zealand. The prospect of a return to air travel has reminded me of flying Economy to the US for the first time in the 1970s. Midway over the Atlantic, a screen was pulled down at the front of the cabin. There was an ominous rumbling from overhead and a bulky apparatus descended from the ceiling. It was a rig with a Super 8 movie projector bolted into it. The woman who'd shown us how to wear our life jackets now got on the mike and invited us to enjoy our in-flight movie. It was Jaws.

On our next crossing in the early 80s they'd upgraded to one of those early video players. The cassettes ran for thirty minutes so the film had to be split over four of them. This time the movie was Fun with Dick and Jane starring George Segal and Jane Fonda. I couldn't tell you the story because after an hour the flight  attendant apologised for getting the tapes in the wrong order. We started again from the beginning. She played them in a different wrong order. It was a relief when she just gave up.

I finally got the proper in-flight movie experience when I watched Argentinian Oscar winner The Secret in Their Eyes on my personal seat-back screen. I liked it so much that when it ended I wished I hadn't seen it on a plane. 

These days I just take a book.

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Roger Simons

I only just picked up the news that Roger Simons died back in April. Roger was a core member of the British film industry, a veteran First Assistant Director with a long list of feature and TV credits from 1963's Summer Holiday to the last season of Rosemary &Thyme. He ran the crew on just about every kind of production, from cheesy British comedies and big-budget features to arthouse indies like Polanski's Cul de Sac. He was 1st AD on Oktober, which gave me one degree of separation from just about everyone in the business. His kindness and support on the shoot meant everything to me.

The job title can be misleading; ‘assistant’ suggests some kind of fetch-and-carry role, and nothing could be further from the truth. The First Assistant is responsible for day-to-day scheduling, the running of the set, the handling of the crew. One eye is always on the clock to ensure that the director makes their day and if they don't, to rejig the elements necessary to catch up later. The AD is the producer's presence on the set, with whom the buck stops on health and safety. Theirs is the loudest voice, the most authoritative, always moving everyone along. And if that isn't enough, it's also a tradition that the AD arranges all the background action with the extras.

See for yourself, check out Roger's credits on the Internet Movie Database. His bio there gives the cause of death as ‘undisclosed’, but when I searched for more details a short obituary on the Britmovie forum indicated that he'd stopped posting a while before due to illness. We'd kept in touch, just cards at Christmas, and when I got hold of a widescreen copy I sent him a DVD of the show we'd worked on and got a nice note in return.

Weird thing is, sometime around April I'd sent him a postcard from our lockdown - my understanding was that he lived alone and I just wanted him to know that I was thinking of him, still grateful for his patient steering of an inexperienced tyro on Oktober. I don't know if he saw it and I suspect it would have arrived too late. But there you go.

Friday 4 December 2020

The Governess

A stocking filler or secret Santa for less than four quid? 

I’ve written this Edwardian-style chapbook featuring The Lost World’s Professor Challenger and Edward Malone. Available only for this holiday period, then it’s gone. 

Paperback, 40 pages, illustrated. Would suit Sherlockian or similar. No time wasters. 


Click here to buy The Governess

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Night Vision Memories

Came across this photo while searching the old albums for something else. Back in the day I had the honour of sharing Night Visions 8, one of Dark Harvest's classic series of three-author anthologies, with John Farris and Joe R Lansdale. Joe and I had met at the previous year's Fantasycon. Our families were together on a visit to Nacogdoches and we had the idea of a group photo with all three of the Night Visions contributors.

John Farris was - is - one of my writing heroes. From his early 'Steve Brackeen' pulps (which I managed to track down at San Francisco's incomparable Kayo Bookstore), to the magnificence of such titles as The Fury and Wildwood, he's a key figure in the creation of modern everyday-world horror. 

Joe agreed that the thought of having a shot the three of us together was so cool. Only problem was, John wasn't there with us.

So we improvised. And you know what? I don't think anyone ever noticed.